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Time Left to Resolve NBA Lockout Before Big Year

THE next pro season that could be skewered by labor-management differences is basketball. The National Basketball Association has had a lockout in effect since July 1, but there is still time to work things out before the league's new season begins Nov. 3.

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The key problem of the moment is a dispute among the players, some of whom are prepared to sign a new collective-bargaining agreement and some of whom so oppose what is proposed that they advocate abolishing the players' association that has negotiated the deal. Players have their final opportunity to vote on decertifying the union Sept. 7. The results will be announced Sept. 12.

Fortunately for the league, this turmoil is surfacing a whole year before the NBA celebrates its 50th anniversary, which it will peg to the first NBA game played in Toronto in November 1946. Part of the beauty of this arrangement is that the NBA-stocked United States men's national team presumably will generate a lot of enthusiasm on the ''eve'' of the golden anniversary by winning the gold medal at the '96 Atlanta Olympics.

Touching other bases

* Pop quiz: Name any of the three quarterbacks who have won college football's top individual honor, the Heisman Trophy, during the 1990s. (See answer at end.)

* The Baltimore Orioles are scheduled to end a home stand on the very day that Cal Ripken, the team's shortstop, breaks a major-league endurance record that has been 14 years in the making. So what happens if Wednesday's game against California is rained out? Would baseball leave Baltimoreans heartbroken at having to watch Cal's 2,131-game countdown end in Cleveland? No, says a team spokesman. If necessary, the club would use Thursday's travel day to slip in the record-breaker.

* Before leaving the team's hotel for Saturday's game against Notre Dame, Northwestern University coach Gary Barnett instructed his players not to carry him off the field afterward. ''I wanted them to act like we've done this before,'' Barnett said of Northwestern's stunning 17-15 victory. Barnett clearly wanted his players expecting to win, a feat in itself for a school that had lost 14 straight times to the Irish. Two questions now arise: 1) Can Northwestern use this breakthrough to secure its first winning season since 1971? and 2) Has Notre Dame, 6-5-1 a year ago, become an ordinary team? The Irish undergo a major character check this Saturday against northern Indiana rival Purdue, which often seems to save its best effort for Notre Dame.

* Quiz answer: Ty Detmer of Brigham Young University won the Heisman in 1990, Gino Torretta of the University of Miami (Fla.) in 1992, and Charlie Ward of Florida State in 1993.

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